In Hungary, Wilson visits during centenary of church’s formal organization

News March 20, 2013

Thousands of Seventh-day Adventist members and friends in Hungary welcomed Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson on the last stop of his ten-day pastoral visit to Europe this month. 

Wilson’s visit came during a week when Adventists were celebrating the centenary of the church’s former Duna Union, later renamed the Hungarian Union Conference.

Adventism first came to Hungary in the mid-1860s, when M. B. Czechowski, a Polish Catholic priest turned Adventist, expanded his Sabbath-keeping group from Switzerland to Hungary and other parts of Europe.

Last Sunday’s anniversary celebration also marked the launch of The Great Hope Project in Hungary. The world church initiative aims to bring “hope to every home,” by encouraging Adventists to share copies of “The Great Hope” with their friends and neighbors.

“This is not about what the church can do, but [about] what the church members can do to bring ‘hope to every home’ in Hungary,” said Tamás Ocsai, president of the church’s Hungarian Union Conference.

“The Great Hope” is a modern adaptation of church co-founder Ellen G. White’s book, “The Great Controversy,” which highlights people faithful to God throughout history, including the Waldensians and other small groups who preserved an authentic form of Christianity during the Middle Ages.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church is God’s last remnant church,” Wilson said. “God is preparing His people for something very unusual and we are to share with people the love of Jesus in a pleasant way. May you leave this place full of Hope for the future.”

In the afternoon, Wilson and a delegation of top Adventist officials from Hungary and the church’s Trans-European Division met with György Hölvényi, the country’s minister of state for Religion, National Minority and Civil Society Affairs.

Wilson outlined the scope of the 17 million-member global Protestant denomination, and talked with Hungarian officials about religious freedom in the country.

The meeting came a year after Hungarian lawmakers voted to restore the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s official status in the country. The move followed months of uncertainty after the controversial “Law on Churches,” passed in 2011, de-registered some 300 minority faith groups, including the Adventist Church. Churches were invited to reapply for official status under more stringent parameters. The government said the law was part of a wider effort to prevent sham religious groups from claiming the rights and privileges extended to legitimate churches.

During the meeting, Minister Hölvényi took the opportunity to reiterate Hungary’s commitment to protecting the rights of minority faiths. “The intention of the government is not to exclude any group from religious activities in the country,” Hölvényi said, later stressing the key role of the International Religious Liberty Association in protecting freedom of belief worldwide.

Before leaving Hungary, Wilson told local church leaders that his visit to Europe had been an “enormous privilege,” noting especially the involvement of young people in the region and the enthusiasm demonstrated by local leaders to promote the mission of the church. 

“It has been exciting to see the vibrant church in so many places as God uses His church and every member to proclaim the three angels’ messages,” Wilson said.

The world church leader is now headed to the church’s Middle-East Northern Africa Union, with stops planned in Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, where Wilson spent part of his childhood.